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Brief Published: 7 Dec 2012

Spider Silk Implants


Research at Utah State University in the US suggests that spider silk fibres could serve as a highly effective implant for humans with damaged knee and shoulder joints.

“The major efforts for the commercial use of spider silk are for artificial ligaments, tendons and bone repair materials,” says professor Randy Lewis. He is supervising Utah State University’s Science and Technology Research initiative (USTAR), which is actively pursuing the development of spider silk ligaments.

Spider silk is 100 times stronger than human or animal ligaments, 20 times stronger than tendons, more elastic than nylon and tougher than Kevlar, making it an in-demand material for all kinds of other items, from body armour to automobile tyres.

In order to produce the quantities necessary to accommodate worldwide demand, Lewis has devised a system to farm the fibres using genetically modified goats. Goats naturally produce spider silk proteins in their milk, which can then be harvested and spun into usable fibres and materials. Researchers at Utah State University anticipate the fibres could become available for human use as soon as 2030.